Great Brazilian Music

Rap and Hip Hop

Brazilian rap music first appeared in the early 1980’s, shortly after the genre was created in the United States. The epicenter of the Brazilian rap movement was the poorer districts and favelas of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In 1988, the first compilation of Brazilian rap was released. The album was named Hip hop, cultura de rua, and featured several of the very first generation of Brazilian hip hop artists, such as Thaíde, DJ Hum, Código 13 and MC Jack. The same year also saw the formation of the group Racionais MCs, from São Paulo, who were to become one of the most influential and respected artists of the Brazilian rap scene. With great pathos, they rapped about the every day lives of young, black favelados in São Paulo, struggling to carve out a decent existence in an environment full of violence, crime, poverty and massive social injustice. Until the mid 1990’s Brazilian rap was all but completely ignored by the country’s cultural elite and it was not played on either radio or TV. The artists of the genre were rarely signed by any record company. That was the case even for the group Racionais MCs, whose concerts regularly drew crowds of over 10,000 in the early 1990’s .

The first Brazilian rap artist enjoying any success in mainstream media was the white middle class teenager Gabriel Contino, better known as Gabriel o Pensador. He had a huge hit in 1992, with song Tô Feliz, Matei o Presidente (translated: I’m happy, I killed the President), which was targeted against president Fernando Collor de Mello, who had just been forced to resign, because of a corruption scandal. The music of Gabriel o Pensador, however, was really just as much pop as it was hip-hop.

Racionais MC's finally got their media break through in 1993 and with that, the hip-hop culture spread, from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, to other parts of Brazil. A large number of new hip-hop groups were formed, such as Cambio Negro and GOG (in Brasília), Faces do Subúrbio and Sistema X (from Recife), Da Guedes (from Porto Alegre) and Black Soul (from Belo Horizonte). During the mid 1990’s there was also a wave of popular bands that mixed hip hop with rock and other musical styles, including Planet Hemp (with famous rapper Marcelo D2 as front man) and Nação Zumbi. Marcelo D2 has since 1997 been engaged in a highly successful solo career, rising to become one of Brazil's most popular artists, with his trade mark combination of slick production hip hop and samba.

The biggest popular breakthrough for Brazilian hip hop came in 1998, when Racionais MCs released the album Sobrevivendo no Inferno (translated: "Surviving in Hell") on an independent company. The album sold over a million copies and is considered by many to be the strongest Brazilian hip-hop release ever. After that success, the record companies saw the commercial potential of Brazilian hip-hop, which opened up opportunities for a wide range of artists, as among others, MV Bill, BNegão and Rappin 'Hood from Rio de Janeiro and Z'África Brasil, Sabotage, De Menos Crime and Kamau from São Paulo, who are all some of the leading names within Brazilian hip-hop.

Examples of Brazilian rap and hip hop

Click to listen:

Poesia de Concreto, Kamau & Instituto, 2002
Santa Bárbara, MC Ralph, 2011
Babylon by Gus, Black Alien, 2004
Jorge de Capadócia, Racionais MCs, 1998
U Informe, Black Alien, 2004
Dia de Desfile, Rappin' Hood, 2002
O dia seguinte, B.Negão, 2002
Desabafo, Marcelo D2, 2008


The Rocinha favela of Rio de Janeiro.

Rappin Hood

Racionais MCs